We flew from Nashville to Miami & were then bussed to Port Everglades for boarding the ship. This was the first east bound voyage for this BIG, beautiful ship. But that is a major part of the problem that prevents enjoying this ship compared to smaller ones. If a person goes on a one week cruise, they would not even learn their way around in that time. The layout is very confusing, and the maps provided in the rooms and in the public areas are difficult to use. The layout is very difficult for handicapped that have to move about the ship from one end to the other. I met one gentleman who required a wheel chair, and the charge was $50.
The ship follows the traditional English class system in determining when and where you eat. Full suite, penthouse, or apartment passengers eat in the "Queens Grill". Next is the Princess Grill which also has only one seating for dinner. Then the Britannia Dining area has two seatings, one at 6:30 and one at 8:00. The food for all areas seemed to be virtually the same, only the service area was different. The evening entertainment is outstanding, but if one eats in the Queen or Princess Grill, it is impossible to get a decent seat for the 8:30 p.m. show. There are many bad seats there because of pillars or other blockages. I requested an appointment with the Cruise Director to discuss the situation. He refused to meet with me. The food service and presentation were outstanding, but the food quality was far below what we have experienced on other ships.
The arrival and departures at every port were very emotional because of the big welcoming and farewell locals that turned out to see the ship make a first visit to each port. There were bands, balloons, dignitaries, & everything that one could imagine. It felt good to see the reception for a ship that is American owned by Carnival Cruise Lines. The ship was built in France.
We were fortunate that the ship was not completely booked which allowed Cunard to give us a complimentary upgrade from a Junior suite to a Suite which was very nice with king sized bed, nice bathroom, sitting area, and a balcony that we thoroughly enjoyed.
We sailed from Port Everglades for Bridgetown, Barbados that is always a nice stop. The economy there is primarily tourism, agriculture, and illegal drugs. They are very nice people and we spent the day on a catamaran plying the coast and snorkeling in the wonderful climate & sunshine.
From there it was a long voyage to Dakar, Sagal, Africa that is on the northwestern tip of Africa. It is a very large city of about 1,500,000 persons. It is hot, dry, dusty, filthy, and very poor with little hope of getting any better. There is no public education system. Therefore, only the wealthy can afford to pay for the tuition, books, uniforms, supplies that must be purchased. So there is a 4% literacy rate. Husbands are allowed to have up to four wives. With the wives & children all together we were told that often there will be 20 to 30 people living in one very small area. Street vendors are everywhere with anything one wishes to buy, and many things one does not wish for. Anita need a pair of sunglasses because her's are bifocal & do not work very well going up & down the stairs of the ship. A street vendor had a board maybe 3 x 4 feet with hundreds of sunglasses on it. Anita spotted one she wanted & sent me out from the bus to negotiate. I asked our guide how much the price should be & was told $2, max $3. The vendor started out asking $25, and finally came down to three just as our bus was ready to depart. It was an experience to visit once, but no one had any desire to linger or return in the future. Ten hours was more than enough.
From there we sailed to two different islands in the Canary Islands. They are wonderful and attract a large number of tourists from England. Both of the volcanic islands were modern, neat, and clean with everything one could want. These are places worth re-visiting. Again, the crowds were out on arrival & departure. From there to Madeira, an island off the coast of Spain. It is where fortified Madeira wine is made in small quantities. Again, a clean, modern city that was very enjoyable.
Then to Lisbon, Portugal. Surprise to me is how far inland it is from the coast. We must have gone by river for at least 15 to 20 miles to this large, vibrant city. Tourism abounds. There are over 200 public parks, all well maintained. The city is beautiful and CLEAN. We were there on Saturday before Easter so the town was very busy. Our only purchase was a 750ml of Dow 1966 vintage Port wine for $30. It was wonderful, especially when enjoyed with some of the nice chocolates from the ship.
Then from Lisbon to London. One of the ship's turbines developed a problem so we were late departing Lisbon and could not cruise at the standard 28 knot speed. This suited us just fine because it is not very comfortable being out on the ship's deck when relative winds are 35 to 40 miles per hour. So we fell about 6 hours behind schedule which caused flight connection problems for many. So Cunard rearranged schedules for many for the following day departures and put them in the Holiday Inn overnight. It really did not effect us except we missed out on an organized afternoon walking tour of our hotel area. London is another very large, very clean city with anything one wants. Many people went to plays, visited museums, went shopping, or sightseeing. Our travel agent that booked 271 passengers on the ship, provided us with excellent information, service, and guidance.
The ship was a real experience for us and most everyone else. It was full of very experienced travelers. 70% of the passengers were 70 years of age, or older. There were 24 children on board. The comments from virtually everyone were that the ship is just to big & carries to many passengers. The layout is difficult to negotiate. When arranging shore tours and departing for them it becomes a cattle call. In several of the ports it required 25 or more full sized busses to handle the people going on tours, most that left at nearly the same time. In all ports the ship did provide shuttle busses to a convenient place in the city.
All in all, it was a fun trip and something to remember, but there are other cruise ships for a lot less money with better advantages and much less disadvantage. We love Celebrity Cruise Line and plan to use them for any future cruises.